Sunday, September 05, 2010

Harvesting Lavender for Distilling Lavender Reserve

We've grown our lavender from seed. Lots of genetic diversity. Each year we harvest and distill small amounts of "Lavender Reserve" essential oil and hydrosols. Lavender officianados love this essential oil. It is unique in aroma. There really is nothing else like it! Here's JD Higdon's Lavender Harvester. Each row only takes us about 3 minutes to harvest.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Western Juniper

Our most recent distillation was quite successful. Our wild crafters brought a ton of Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) leaf for us to distill. We managed to obtain a final yield of 0.62%, that's not bad for Western Juniper. Previous distillations yielded less than 0.5%. Previous to distilling Western Juniper, we distilled Bay Laurel Leaf (Laurus nobilis). The oil is exquisite. The best Bay Laurel oil I've experienced (if I do say so myself!). The branches were brought to the distillery by someone here in Portland, who was pruning her fast growing tree. This is not something we will distill on a regular basis unfortunately. However, it is something I love to distill. The last time I distilled Bay Laurel was on the Island of Syros, in Greece. We did manage to produce 2 ounces of gorgeous essential oil and ten gallons of fragrant hydrosol.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Distilling Incense Cedar Leaf

I managed to locate an excellent source for wild crafted aromatic raw materials. This is very exciting to me, as it opens a door for access to some very interesting plants, some of which I've wanted to distill for a very long time. Included in that list is Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense), Arrow Leaf Balsam Root (Balsamorhiza sagittata), Pipsissewa - Prince's Pine (Chimaphila umbellata) and of course one of my favorites, Incense Cedar (Libocedrus decurrens-- aka Calocedrus decurrens) I started distilling a batch of Incense Cedar Leaf. The leaf had been gently dried and there was minimal stem material. This is very good, because the twigs are unproductive and take up room and cost energy. I distilled for three hours and obtained less than 0.5% yield. Then it dawned on me that I had made an error. As with all conifers, the scales of the "leaf" of the Incense Cedar are covered with a waxy coating. In order to break the coating down and get at the essential oils the coating protects, the "leaf" must first be soaked in room temperature water. I turned off my distiller, and left the steam soaked plant material to sit overnight. When I distilled the next morning, the essential oil flowed easily. I finally ended up with a 1.4% yield of essential oil and lots of interesting hydrosols. When I do my next run of Incense Cedar Leaf, I will add copper to the system to reduce the sulfurous "still note". The last time I distilled Incense Cedar was in a copper still and the oil was "sweet" right from the beginning. I will also soak each batch for at least 12 hours prior to distillation. Right now the oil and waters are breathing, like a fine wine. I hope in the future to be able to increase the percent yield to between 1.5 and 2.0 %. Cant' wait to distill Wild Ginger and Arrowleaf Balsamroot!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Douglas Fir Needle Project

The basic concept is to harvest wind damaged Douglas Fir branches from local city parks. This is an environmentally conscious project. Harvesting downed branches helps with parks cleanup and reduces fire hazard. Our waste material then goes forward to be used as mulch. During our first distillation we had a somewhat disappointing yield, of only .04% The oil is quite lovely however. This problem is not insurmountable. First we brought the branches back to our distillery. We then chipped the branches in our small electric chipper. This proved to be very cumbersome and time consuming. The purpose for chipping the branches is to reduce the size of the material we are distilling, to enable us to get as much raw material into the still per batch. The more, the merrier! Our 100 gallon stainless steel steam distiller was then filled with chipped Douglas Fir branches. The steam was slowly brought into the retort at about 0.5 pounds pressure. After breakthrough (when distillate begins to flow from the condenser), we distilled for 1.5 hours. Upon opening the still we discovered that the plant material had been totally exhausted. Next time we distill Douglas Fir we will restrict the distillation time to one hour after breakthrough. Although the yield was somewhat disappointing, I am not discouraged. I feel that if we wait a few more weeks, when the Douglas Fir buds begins to open, there will be more oil present in the plant for distillation. Although we can certainly distill during the winter months, it looks like spring and fall will offer the best yields. Also, logistics must be worked out. The way we processed the material was time consuming, and in the long run not financially feasible. Next time, we will use our large chipper to expedite the process of reducing the particle size. A batch of branches can be chipped in the larger chipper in just a few minutes, as opposed to a few hours in our small electric chipper. Enough raw material needs to be brought to the distillery for at least two batches. As our distillery grows, we will be adding additional capacity. This project can serve as a model to others who wish to help out their local environment, while manufacturing a product free from harmful chemicals and sprays (providing of course that your local parks administrators don't spray their trees.) The Douglas Fir trees in Portland parks are not sprayed. This is a native species that does well here, and in most cases the trees are adults, and simply too large to spray. Along with making some beautiful oil, we als made lots of hydrosols. One of our staff member has taken the hydrosol home to be used in cleaning floors.

Distillery Opens in Sellwood

Finally!! We've opened our distillery in Sellwood. Sellwood is on the south side of Portland, Oregon. It's a great neighborhood, about 4 miles from downtown Portland. We have expanded our warehouse an additional 7200 square feet. Within this additional space is our new distillery. This is a small scale boutique distillery with capabilities for direct steam and water/steam distillation. In addition to serving as a functional distillery, this is also a show room for interested parties to view the various types of distillation apparatus we offer for sale. Our newest piece of equipment is a 35 gallon water/steam distiller, currently priced at $8780 US FOB Oregon. This is a self contained distiller that operates using propane as fuel for the burner. The water level is regulated with a float valve, so you never have to worry about running out of water. The condenser is also regulated for temperature so that you can set it to the temperature that you desire your distillate to be.